Over the festive holidays, I visited my in-laws to reflect on the year, open presents and share good food. I find spending time with people over the holidays always sparks great conversations, because they often have a different view from my own experiences. Conversations are great for questioning our mindset.
While discussing a soon-to-born-baby in the family, my mother-in-law said something that really got me thinking about the self-development idea of ‘shifting your perspective’ and re-framing in general.
An Emotional Situation
The story was of two pregnant women, with similar due dates. They bonded on the shared milestones and supported each other throughout the pregnancies.
When the first lady gave birth, one of the second lady’s response was “she’s got her baby, I want mine now. I’m tired and exhausted and I want to hold my baby now like she can.”
We are trained to compare and contrast experiences: it’s how we learn.
But this friend’s baby as unwell. It had been born prematurely, and the child actually died young due to a medical condition. When the second lady had her baby: a healthy boy, she continued that friendship with the other mother; yet there was obviously a difference in the milestones and experiences.
Through this story, sitting with a warm tea on a cold winter’s day, I shivered. My brain instantly rushed forward, imagining how that relationship must have brought such guilt at having a healthy child when this lady did not.
But my mother-in-law didn’t say that. She smiled, looking at an image of her sons, and simply stated: “It made me so grateful for my baby’s health, and I never forgot, never took for granted that my family was healthy.”
Where my mindset labelled “guilt” and my stomach felt uneasy at the awkwardness of such a friendship with continue holding… her mindset only saw gratitude. I could feel it, of course any mother would be so grateful for their child’s health when she’d experienced that.
Perspective is Not About Lying to Yourself
This is not “oh, I should feel grateful. let me re-frame this horribly uncomfortable situation.” This was her natural response. And having not experienced childbirth myself, I can only imagine those kinds of experiences. But from visualising the guilt and unease, I found myself really able to listen to her viewpoint, and focus on how she expressed the situation.
And that unease in my stomach, just dissolved.
I don’t instantly believe anyone can just think there way out of illness or focusing their thoughts will make them win the lottery. But my thoughts about this event were causing my body discomfort and my heart pain.
Yet, guilt in this instant was not a fact. Focusing my attention on the gratitude completely shifted my experience of the situation, although all I actually did, was shift my mental focus.
Sometimes, shifting our attention can really cause a change in our feelings. It’s just a case of perspective.